Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). Autobiography -- Criticism and interpretation


This will be an explication of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography along with a discussion of its relationship to the works of Jean Jacques Rousseau in regards to the models of gender and womanhood painted by each thinker in his texts. First, I will offer a quantified taxonomy of several formal structures in Mill’s text, including a summary of the uses of the phrase “my father” alongside a summary of the instances of Mill’s claims of having read an author. Next, I give a summary of the uses of the phrases “my wife” and “my daughter” alongside a discussion of the instances in which Mill discusses his own writings and their placements in the text. Following this, I include a brief overview and conclusion of the meaning shaped by these formal structures to argue for the structural importance of a particular passage in the text in which John Stuart Mill introduces his wife, Harriet. Next, drawing from secondary sources, I offer an account of Rousseau’s philosophy and political program for women, followed by a discussion of the influence of Rousseau’s thinking on John Stuart Mill’s own representation of Harriet in his text. I will show that Rousseau’s understanding of women as biologically equivalent yet inferior to men are extremely pervasive in Mill’s understanding and use of women in Autobiography. Following this, I will pull from Mill’s essay “The Subjugation of Women” and discuss the implications of this work for Mill’s representation of women in Autobiography. By doing this, I will show that John Stuart Mill, while retaining several aspects of Rousseau’s philosophy, reorganized gender roles and marital power dynamics in order to accommodate the fledgling free market ideology and bourgeois social order of the 19th century



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